ST. LOUIS — For the third consecutive year and the fourth time since 2008, Western Governors University, www.wgu.edu, has been awarded the 21st Century Best Practices in Distance Learning for 2013 from the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA). The nonprofit, online university received the award April 30 in St. Louis, Missouri, at the association’s annual international conference. The USDLA International Awards are presented annually to individuals and organizations that contribute to the development, delivery, and innovation of distance learning programs. The awards were created to acknowledge major accomplishments, leadership, and advancements in distance learning and highlight programs and professionals who have demonstrated remarkable results through the use of online and blended learning delivery technologies. USDLA is the nation’s leading distance learning organization. “Western Governors University represents the finest examples of online education, best practices, and leadership in our field,” said Dr. Rob Robinson, President of USDLA. “We are so very proud and excited to be able to recognize this level of excellence." WGU has more than 39,000 students nationwide and offers more than 50 accredited online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the fields of business, information technology, K–12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. Degree programs are competency-based, an approach that lets students move quickly through areas where they have prior education or work experience so they can focus on the things they still need to learn. At WGU, learning is individualized and guided by one-on-one support from a faculty mentor. Degree programs are rigorous and challenging, but designed to allow students to schedule their studies to accommodate work and family obligations. WGU’s tuition is affordable—about $6,000 per year for most programs—and is charged at a flat rate regardless of the amount of coursework a student completes.